Skirting Skin Cancer

Prevention and early detection are critical, experts say

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SATURDAY, Aug. 30, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Is it a simple mole or a deadly cancerous growth?

Many Americans -- especially those who have indulged in sun worship at some point in their lives -- worry about skin cancer and how to recognize its signs. According to the American Cancer Society, early detection is key, and it is important to note the appearance of new skin growths or changes in those growths. Any suspicious lesions should be examined by a physician.

To recognize a melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, the cancer society offers this ABCD outline: A is for asymmetry, when one half of the mole does not match the other half; B is for border irregularity: when the edges are ragged, notched or blurred; C is for color, when the pigmentation is not uniform; D is for a diameter greater than six millimeters.

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid intense sun exposure, and the Skin Protection Federation -- a coalition of nonprofit organizations including the cancer society -- has come up with a prevention program called Slip! Slop! Slap! The effort is aimed mostly at children and their parents, because kids can get up to 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure by age 18.

"The message is slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen and slap on a hat," says Dr. Martin Weinstock, chairman of the cancer society's Skin Cancer Advisory Group and an associate professor of dermatology at Brown University. "We're hoping these behaviors become second nature, like brushing your teeth or putting on a seatbelt."

More information

The Skin Cancer Foundation has more on skin cancer.

SOURCES: Martin Weinstock, M.D., chairman, American Cancer Society's Skin Cancer Advisory Group, and associate professor, dermatology, Brown University; American Cancer Society

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